SFUSD HR contracts with Walton Foundation-funded Bellwether Education Partners for “evaluation and performance support services”

SFUSD spark minutes 10 2017 re bellwether HR evaluation closeup.jpg

This screenshot (shown above) is from the minutes of the Nov 9, 2017 meeting of  SPARK-SF Public Schools.   According to their website:  “Spark*SF Public Schools serves as a central structure for investing directly in the big changes we need to prepare our students to compete and thrive in today’s world.”  In other words they coordinate the funding for SFUSD’s Vision 2025.   More on Vision 2025 later.  Its first stage is the Middle School Redesign being rolled out this year.

The above item from the SPARK meeting minutes is disturbing because:

ONE:  SFUSD Human Resources will be receiving “evaluation and performance support services” from Bellwether Education Partners.  Here is a blog post on the Bellwether website under Issues > Teacher Quality, that calls for MORE teacher evaluation based on test scores!   Briefly looking around under their Issues menu heading I can see they support for many other right wing initiatives, for example, “pension reform”.   When I look up Bellwether Education Partners Inc. at littlesis.org (opposite of Big Brother), I find that  they are wholly funded by the Walton Foundation.  No friends of ours!

TWO.  “Evaluation and performance support” is a “key initiative prioritized by” Superintendent Matthews.  Why is this a priority?  Where does this priority come from?  A priority for whom?  I think other issues are a burning priority, for example, adequate staffing.

THREE:   The sequence of steps goes like this:  Corporate money comes in (from LinkedIn), SPARK chairperson requests that $25K of this money go to meet SFUSD HR’s “need” for “evaluation and performance support services”, HR has already identified Bellwether through “appropriate procurement channels”, HR signs contract with this anti teacher organization to “improve” teacher evaluations, which means make evaluations dependent on student test scores, SPARK pays Bellwether directly and then HR reports outcomes directly to corporate sponsor.   Why report the ourcomes directly to the corporate sponsor?  Are they determining policy?

FOUR:  What exactly does “evaluation and performance support” mean?  When does it roll out?   We need to see these documents!  UESF needs to be part of this decision to possibly change how evaluations are carried out.   Maybe UESF has been , but I doubt it.  AND UESF members and UBC’s need to be fully informed what to look out for.  Does this violate our contract?

FIVE:   While claiming poverty, somehow SFUSD has the money to hire the administrators to coordinate things like this.

SIX:  This seems sneaky and like a good reason to keep a close eye on Superintendent Matthews.  Are these our priorities?  The tax-payer’s priorities?  SFUSD parent’s priorities?  Our elected School Board members priorities?  I don’t remember being part of this decision.


Personal contact info, UESF communications, and building reps

UESF communications are at a low point, for a bunch of reasons.  Here is part of the story, based on my personal experience and efforts working within the union.   I don’t just stand around and criticize, and I’m avoiding naming individuals.

  1.  The union has a legal relationship with its members, part of which is access to their personal contact information.   As an minority member of the Exec Board and as an outreach worker for UESF, I have argued frequently for greater support for building reps and UBC members who do the day to day union work while teaching!  As recently as last spring UESF shared the rosters and contact info of UESF members at each site with the building reps (because I requested it for the sites to which I was assigned).  This year I was told it was okay to share just the names of UESF members at school sites, but not their personal contact info, but even this was never carried out, despite my repeated requests.   UESF leadership is currently drawing a very conservative line as to who is the union, I think due to fears about controlling the message and also due to internal factionalism (not wanting the other side to have a win).  I think building reps, who are elected, should be included and have access to those contacts!  I know from my experience as BR at Balboa HS, it takes a lot of doing to locate everyone in the building, in particular the paras and itinerant workers.  The union database should be used to help with this.
  2. Elected Building reps and UBC members should be trusted with the union work and encouraged to communicate and share with each other.  This has been promised by UESF leadership for the last 3 years, but again, never happens.  Other unions have pass-word protected sections of the union website that allow BR to communicate with each other.  Some unions have databases of grievances filed.  I requested access to the UESF grievance database several years ago and first they lied about it and then they admitted that it didn’t exist.  It would be so useful to know what has been grieved in the past and what has worked what has not, to be informed, instead of every BR having to start from a place of ignorance and figure it out on their own.
  3. The Division meetings fulfill some of the need for info and communications.  But, again, they need to be done better.  Again, in my dual role within UESF, I tried to improve communications around the divisions.  Here is what I argued for (the division chairs agreed but it was never carried out, because they are working teachers as well, and communication is not prioritized by the leadership):   a work order be given to the membership secretary (who does great work!) to list and provide the contacts for all BR to the appropriate division chairs so that the email lists they use are complete!  UESF outreach workers should spend time with each BR explaining how the divisions work, and the union leadership should make this kind of outreach a priority!  Every month there should be a call for agenda items sent out, and then the agenda shared with ALL BR for that division, and then the minutes from the meeting and the agenda for the following meeting with the asst superintendent shared and then the minutes from that meeting shared out again.  Its basic, it would be SO useful, and it is the responsibility of the leadership to make it happen.  there should be a password protected place on the UESF website that BR can access that has past minutes of division meetings.  I think decades of neglect have allowed these union structures to become rusty and forgotten and weak.

SFUSD central office administrative salaries – a few things we know

Here are some things we know and some questions we are asking.

One.  Last summer UESF filed some Request for Information (public documents) with SFUSD.  One result was,

“The combined salaries of the top thirteen administrators equals 2.6 million dollars per year”,

which is more than half of the 4.2 million needed to pay for a one percent pay raise for all UESF members.  What has happened with this information during the bargaining?

Two.  Intrepid Balboa HS teachers filed an RFI several years ago on administrative salaries.  My analysis of those figures shows that during the economic crash years of 2009-10 to 2010-11,  a few central admin took pay raises, some took 2% pay cuts and most had no change to their salaries.   This is good,

but during that same time all educators took four furlough days, which is about a 4% pay cut.  And it was during that year that the SFUSD tricked the T-10’s into giving up an hour a day, a 14% pay cut on top of also taking the furlough days!!

Then in the following year, according to the figures, administrators got, on average, a 7% salary increase!  UESF members continued to live with a pay cut due to continued furlough days, and there were lay-offs (as far as I remember).  The T-10’s loss of an hour per day became permanent!!  This unfair!

Three.  I have made a new request for public records, which I’m told will be completed by mid December.  My apologies for not doing it sooner!!  I asked for the 555 Franklin admin salaries for the years 2011-12, 2012-2013, 2013-14, and 2014-15, and will analyze them to see who got pay raises and if the number of positions increased, and share what I find out.

Four.  During bargaining, the UESF team was advised by researchers from the CFT and CTA, our state affiliates.  At the UESF assembly meeting, someone requested that this financial info be shared with the UESF membership, and the leadership replied that they had to put getting the ballots out first, before posting the information.

Ballots before information!


What UESF members want: results of the Listening tour, the bargaining survey and LCAP community meetings

What UESF members want (info from three sources):

  1. Bargaining survey of Nov 2016 –  I worked on this as an area rep.  We tried hard to get as many UESF members personal emails as we could, so that they could respond electronically.  The election committee and the UESF office staff made it a priority to update the database ASAP.  (Unfortunately, based on my experience as an area rep,  this year UESF is not updating the database well at all).  In addition to mailing them out, efforts were made to get the paper surveys to those UESF members without emails on file.  Leadership of UESF decided to keep the results of the survey secret, with the rationale of not revealing their hand to the district at the table. Executive board members got to see it briefly during a meeting.  In the open response section UESF members made thousands of comments, but I’m not sure anyone besides Lita took the time to read them.  So who knows what our priorities were!
  2. UESF Listening Tour of 2015– UESF staff, officers and volunteers had open ended conversations with members at over 60 school sites, and the results from 30 of those sites was compiled into a report.  UESF members have four clear concerns:  A) affordability (need a pay raise),  B) Implementation of Safe and Supportive Schools resolution and student discipline (SFUSD needs to provide the resources to carry out this mandate properly instead of just putting it back on individual teachers), C)  Special Education staffing and support (SFUSD needs to put more resources into these programs), and D) workload issues and growing expectations and duties placed on educators.
  3. Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP) Close the Gap Coalition Town Hall, May, 2015:   Participants chose three priorities to improve schools.  This meeting was part of the community stakeholders input into the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) which is how California distributes money to local school districts.   A)  A para and teacher in every classroom,   B)  A safe alternative learning space for students, C)  A family engagement plan including time for educators and parents to develop relationships.

What a better contract would include:

1.   A larger pay increase

2.   Real contract language on special education staffing and services that provide tools for classroom educators to use to defend services for students.

3.  Real contract language on restorative justice and support for students that provide tools for classroom educators to fight the school to prison pipeline.

4.  Real contract language that provides tools for classroom educators to address ever-increasing duties and expectations placed on them.

… add your own …

Does rejecting the TA mean a strike?


There are two parallel processes that have to be completed before UESF could legally strike.  One, according to our By-Laws, there have to be two strike authorization votes by the members before the UESF leadership has the authority to call a strike.   Following CA law, a second series of steps has to be completed as well, which are as follows.  If bargaining breaks down (one side or the other gives up on it), then it goes to impasse and a mediator is brought in, who attempts to get the two sides (no longer speaking directly to one another) to reach an agreement. If mediation doesn’t work then a fact finding panel looks at both sides stories and makes a recommendation for settlement.   After that the district may impose its offer, at which point the union my strike.

Rejecting the TA just means that membership tells the bargaining team to go back to the table and try again.  The BT returns to negotiations with a stronger mandate from its members.

Open bargaining – four examples

  1.  Oakland Educator’s Association – bargaining team sends out a one-question survey, the “Question of the Week” to the membership, to inform the decisions that the BT are making.  If UESF did that, they would have asked the membership for guidance on salary demands before dropping them.   I was told that OEA members simply went to the BT and asked for it, so its easy to do and quite possible.   Here is the link to OEA website; scroll down to 10/18/2017 to see a post about a “Question of the Week”.
  2. Fresno Teacher’s Association has groups of union members in the room during bargaining as observers who then return to their sites and talk about it. 

    For example, groups of SpED teachers are in the room when something about SpED is being negotiated.  Many nurses unions do this.

  3. Chicago Teacher Union does it a different way.  The executive officers do the negotiating, but bring any decisions out to the Executive Committee (equivalent to our EBoard) for discussion and approval before making a decision.  This would have been nice!
  4. Concord Teachers Association (Massachusetts) open bargaining strategy is described in this article.  Their first step was to find out what matters to the members.  UESF did exactly this with the Listening Tour two years ago, but it doesn’t seem to have informed our negotiating very much.  According to the Listening Tour UESF members’ top concerns were: affordability, special education staffing and support, real implementation of Safe and Supportive Schools Resolution and student discipline, and the growing expectations and duties.